Blinkx Brings Tiny Search Tools To Windows Apps - InformationWeek
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3/6/2006
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Blinkx Brings Tiny Search Tools To Windows Apps

The software adds buttons to a variety of applications, such as E-mail clients, Web browsers, and word processors. When clicked, the buttons display search results based on the contents of the document being viewed.

Search software company Blinkx plans on Tuesday to introduce what it calls the world's smallest search engine.

That might seem an odd assertion given that search engines like to advertise size: It was only September of last year that Google claimed its index was three times larger than that of its rivals, even as it stopped listing the number of documents in its index on Google.com in an effort to shift the debate.

But Pico is small only in terms of screen real estate; it boasts a tiny user interface rather than a paucity of possible results.

Taking a page from Google's playbook for world domination, Pico is a toolbar, albeit a little one. It consists of several buttons that appear atop a variety of Windows applications like Web browsers, E-mail clients, word processing programs, and so on. When clicked, the buttons present category-specific, or vertical, search results based on the contents of whatever document happens to be active.

These "channels" allow users to constrain search results to news, blogs, video, images, shopping, Wikipedia, or online communities such as MySpace.com.

Thanks to Blinkx's implicit query technology, which scans active documents in the background and goes out to look for related material, Suranga Chandratillake, the company's founder and CTO, says Pico is turning search on its head by bringing search results to the user unbidden.

In so doing, Pico is standing on Microsoft's toes: The application squats on real estate that belongs to Windows programs. It's a strategy that has proven to be a popular way to deal with Microsoft's ownership of the desktop, particularly with Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser. There are almost 29,000 plug-in, or browser help object, programs--including everything from legitimate software to malware--that interoperate with Internet Explorer, according to security site CastleCops.com. But Pico is more than a browser plug-in because it works with other Windows apps.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Pico is that it respects user privacy. Unlike Google, MSN, or Yahoo, Blinkx doesn't know who its users are, except that about 2 million of them are using the company's desktop search software and video search engine. Thus, the company can't provide information about its customers if the government comes calling with a subpoena.

According to Chandratillake, the implicit query process, by which user documents are scanned to seed queries, doesn't transmit or receive any information that can be traced back to a user. As the company's Privacy Policy states, "Blinkx will never send you pop-ups, and is not adware, nor does it make any record of Internet usage."

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